Saturday, October 03, 2009

Park Wan-suh Interview: Missing Paragraph 'Restored'

Shin Junebong and Park Wan-suh
(Image from LTI Korea)

In looking again at the online interview with the author Park Wan-suh by Shin Junebong for the autumn 2009 issue of the quarterly journal -list: Books from Korea, which is published by LTI Korea, I noticed that the final paragraph is missing due to some sort of glitch reproducing part of the interview's penultimate paragraph (and immmediately prior to the biographical information titled "About Park Wansuh"). I therefore offer the 'ultimate' paragraph of the interview here, 'painstakingly' typed from the hardcopy by Gypsy Scholar, for the benefit of interested readers:
When asked which of her works have been introduced to overseas readers, Park said, "I think it's very difficult to understand the literature of a country without having an understanding of its history." As an example, she told of how even in the case of Japan, a country extremely close to Korea in terms of culture and history, it is difficult for her works to be accurately translated into Japanese. "When the prose of my fiction is translated into a foreign language, the particular flavor of the words seems to be lost," she continued. In which case, it seems that complete understanding and appreciation of Park's works by foreign readers can only be possible in one of the following two ways: either such readers must acquire by themselves a broader understanding of Korea's history and culture; or a "perfect translation," like that described by Walter Benjamin, where a work's vital poetic features, down to its most mystical elements, are transferred intact, must be produced. Neither of these can be achieved in a short period of time. (page 31)
The English translation of Who Ate Up All the Shinga?, by Yu Young-nan and Stephen J. Epstein, may not be a 'perfect' translation of the sort required by Benjamin, but it comes rather close enough in our less-than-perfect world . . . at least for a reader like me. But that's in part the case because I'm one of those readers who has acquired a somewhat "broader understanding of Korea's history and culture," though mostly secondhand since I know very little Korean.

And unlike many Americans, the Korean War was for me not 'the forgotten war' because I grew up hearing about it. My Uncle Leon Ferguson served in the army during the Korean War -- as a conscripted infantryman if I recall, but he wouldn't talk about his experiences. My eighth grade science teacher, Mr. Coy Ferguson, also served -- and told a few stories of the hardship. My Boy Scout leader, Mr. Albert Holland, served as well -- as a sergeant with even more stories of the suffering.

I therefore cannot read passages about the Korean War in Park Wan-suh's Shinga book without thinking, "Uncle Leon, Mr. Ferguson, and Mr. Holland were all there, too, and probably passed through Seoul while Park Wan-suh was struggling at day-to-day survival."

Maybe that's in part what makes the book so fascinating for me to read.

UPDATE: I contacted LTI Korea, and they have now corrected the glitch that had lost the final paragraph.

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At 11:09 AM, Blogger Kelly said...

Hi Jeff,

Fascinating to see what you are up to these days, though I have gotten dribs and drabs of info on your doings from various mutual acquaintance over the years. I believe I did know that you are in Korea.

My dad was there as well. He died this summer, so I have been thinking about it a lot. You don't have any idea who's writing yet, do you? Not fair of me, though my blogger id may have given you some idea. This is Kelly Green from Baylor.

I did *not* know that your Ph.D. was in Johannine studies, though I knew you were doing history of science. I did a course at Vancouver School of Theology some years ago on John with Rabbi Daniel Boyarin, who, I believe, is still at Berkeley. Do you know him? Did your paths cross?

I am still living in Canada, still married, and have four sons, two of whom are students in the department of theatre at University of Victoria, B.C., where we live. So nice to find you, virtually, at least. Look forward to reading some of your back blog posts and articles.


At 11:36 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hi Kelly,

I figured out your identity pretty quickly from Blogger ID. How could I ever forget you and your brother Forrest Green?

And I still recall your remark that Greg Whigham was the smartest person you'd met at Baylor. You probably recall my 'rude' retort (which was intended as humor, by the way).

At any rate, good to hear from you, but sorry to hear that your father has passed away. When was he in Korea?

As for my doctorate, that's a long story -- and seems even longer because it's also a boring story. So's my thesis -- i.e., long and boring. It has made for a couple of interesting articles, however.

Yes, I've met Daniel Boyarin, but he wouldn't remember me.

I didn't know that you were in Canada, but you seem to be in a particularly nice part. I'm pleased to hear of your family. Do I know your husband?

You can find a lot of photos of my family on my blog, both from last summer in July-August and from February-March 2008.

Thanks for taking the trouble to look me up, and good to hear from you again.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:28 AM, Blogger Kelly said...

OMG (to use internet tongue)! Greg Whigham! I haven't thought of him since I left Baylor, literally, but I have thought of you, remembered things you said, wondered what you were up to, and read books from the booklist you gave me, regularly, for many years! I guess it's clear who I really thought was smartest. Or perhaps your impact was as much from friendship.

My dad was in Korea 51/52. Her was both infantry and part of the special engineers (because of his experience with heavy machinery). Then he then went to Japan as part of the occupation forces.

I met my husband at Yale, the one positive thing that came out of that disastrous experience, and he is Canadian. Of course, I am now Canadian, too, officially as of about three years ago. He was a musician (percussionist) when I met him, and for the past 20 years has worked in treasury departments of foreign banks and now as a financial advisor with a Canadian investment dealer.

I have wandered around doing various things--working for PR and advertising firms, publishers, magazines, as a book reviewer, and for sixteen years have been homeschooling my four sons. We also enjoy travelling a lot.

Well, I would love to hear more about what your life has been like, but perhaps some of that is in the blog, so I will read that. My personal email is (and no, that's not a reference to Baylor, but to Kansas City's kelly green and gold Athletics, which got the first color uniforms in the Major Leagues when I was a little girl). Anyway, let me know if you are going to be anywhere on the west coast, or in Canada, at any point. My brother will also be happy to hear what you are doing. He's in Virginia, working on his second book, (this one's on political murder in Latin America), and doing itinerant teaching, etc. His wife has a tenured position at Hampden Sidney.

Oh it is good to virtually talk to you!

At 6:26 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Kelly, thanks for the details.

I'm surprised, however, that you would remember anything I said . . . unless it was some joke I'd made. Anyway, Greg Whigham was a lot smarter than me, so your original comment was true (but thanks for the implicit compliment).

I'll get in touch soon by email.

Jeffery Hodges

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